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Essential Journal

  /  Food & Drink   /  The Recipe: Butternut Curry with Spinach and Cashews

The Recipe: Butternut Curry with Spinach and Cashews

Compliments of Simple & Classic by Jane Hornby (Phaidon)

Colourful, fragrant, and full of texture, this dish shows you don’t need meat to make a good curry. Lentils, chickpeas, and nuts add protein to the melting pot of vegetables and spices for a healthy, balanced meal. It would also make a great side dish to go with the Lamb & Potato Curry.


Medium butternut squash, 2 1/4lb (1kg) 

1 onion
4 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil 
1 tbsp butter 
2 cloves garlic 
1 thumb-sized piece fresh ginger
1 small hot green chile (see note) 
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds 
1 tsp ground coriander 
2 cinnamon sticks 
1 tbsp freeze-dried curry leaves (optional)
1/2 cup (100 g) red lentils
1 (14-oz/400-g) can chickpeas, drained
3/4 cup (100 g) cashew nuts
2 large handfuls baby leaf spinach 
Salt and pepper
Serve with chapatis, naan bread or rice along with relish or chutney

Serves: 4
Preparation time: 25 minutes 
Cooking time: 35 minutes

1 Peel the squash using a good peeler or a small sharp knife. Be careful, because the skin is tough. Cut into 4 pieces. Scoop out the seeds using a tablespoon. Cut the flesh into large cubes about 1 1/4 inches (3cm) across.  

2 Halve and slice the onion. Put a large skillet, frying pan, or wok over medium-high heat. Add the oil and butter, wait for 30 seconds, then add the squash and onions, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables are starting to soften. 

3 While the vegetables cook, thinly slice the garlic and finely grate the ginger. Slit the chile, without cutting through the stem (stalk) end. If using a larger, milder chile, seed and finely chop it, then add the flesh to the pan. 

4 Boil a saucepan or kettle of water. Stir the garlic, ginger, chile, spices, and curry leaves, if using, into the pan and cook for 2 minutes, until fragrant and the vegetables are coated in spice. 

5 Stir in the lentils, then pour in 1 3/4 cups (400 ml) boiling water. Stir, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring a few times. While you wait, preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/Gas Mark 4 and coarsely chop the tomatoes.  

6 Stir the tomatoes in with the chickpeas, cover the pan again, then simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring once or twice. The lentils should be plump and tender. Squash one against the side of the pan to be sure. Season the curry with salt and pepper. 

7 Next, toast the nuts. Sprinkle the nuts over a baking sheet and roast them in the oven for 5 minutes, or until golden 

8 To finish the dish, stir in the spinach leaves and sprinkle the nuts over the top. The spinach will wilt from the heat of the curry. Serve with chapatis, naan breads, or rice and your favorite relish or chutney. 

Fat chilies tend to be milder. Smaller chilies, whether thin, finger length, or small and squat, are usually much hotter. In this recipe, a hot chile is simply split, but not chopped. This is a good way to add some heat and the flavor from a hot chile, without having to chop it or remove the seeds. Remember, all chilies vary. So, before you start chopping, slice a little from the end of the chile, touch the cut end with your finger, then touch the tip of your tongue. If it’s hotter than you’d like, go easy—if it’s milder, use more, or add the seeds, too.